Vulpecula: Little Fox Constellation
This morning, a crippled fox, by parasite or car impact,
I don’t know, pulled its hindquarters to the center
of the east pasture.
I herded the dying creature, with my pickup, out of the field
into its natal forest where it curled under a tree.
It staggered and I could have (or should have?) crushed it
with the truck’s tires or beaten it with the flat back of a shovel head,
but elected to leave it to the comfort of familiarity.
I turned the truck and drove away; released
the horses to gallop circles on this ground now changed.
A man I know who farms the next field over, would have cursed
the fox, would have drawn pistol and bullet. But I choose the word
stewardship for what I do. What I have done. (What have I done?)
At the table, the rest of the house sleeping,
I shave off a curl of bitter cheese, eat a cold plum.
Cassiopeia in her chair, doomed for her eternity
to contemplate her mistakes, hovers over the woods.
Deeper still, in space, the small constellation attached
to no myth will pulse briefly tonight with added lumens
though no one will see its effort for over 300 light years
and then only through the mirrored assist of an astronomer’s scope.
We choose words more comfortable.
Euthanize. Put down. Put to sleep.
But kill is the word. Single syllabic. Hard.
A slug of phenobarb plunged into the vein nestled in the jugular’s groove.
Sometimes if they are down when the bolus hits their heart, they stand.
Those magnificent muscles full of memory bring them to their feet.
Then the collapse, the vet saying stand back, stand back.
Kill: Etymology: Old English cwellan (to murder, execute).
The vet draws up the syringe, says it’s hard to lose the good ones.
I stroke the familiar of his chestnut coat, then walk away.
Abandon: Etymology: Middle English forleven (to leave behind).
This is too large a death to witness.
Linda Blaskey (she/her) is the recipient of two Fellowship Grants in Literature from Delaware Division of the Arts. She is poetry/interview editor emerita for Broadkill Review, is coordinator for the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, and current editor at Quartet. Her work has been selected for inclusion in Best New Poets, and for the North Carolina Poetry on the Bus project. She is author of the chapbook, Farm, the full-length collection, White Horses, and co-author of Walking the Sunken Boards.
She grew up in Kansas and Arkansas and now lives in Delaware.